Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge

By Tony Gascoyne

Last week I spent an interesting and thought-provoking day attending London First’s flagship event – Building London, a one-day housing and property summit. As well as local and national government representatives, it gathered together influencers in the property and construction sector to tackle London’s big development questions. Of the many discussions throughout the day there were a couple that stood out that potentially are impacting the recruitment and talent market and the sector that we operate in.

As one might expect there was no shortage of debate around Brexit. Overall there seemed to be a consensus that whilst the property and construction sectors were operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, this would straighten out over time and that patient investment is not overly under pressure, as the United Kingdom will still need housing to accommodate population growth. Economically it was felt that Brexit hadn’t yet had considerable impact on rental or build, however, transactions have stagnated since 2014 and some office clients have arranged back-up infrastructure outside the UK and of course we haven’t even left yet.

If there is an interruption to the supply of materials, then this would have a knock-on effect for the nations’ ability to construct the required numbers of housing and office space. And whilst there are opportunities to use technology and processes (new brick panel delivery and factory pre-fabrication) to offset skills shortage and speed up construction, there remains the fact that around 28% of all the capital’s construction workforce is from the EU (according to the ONS). The industry has already flagged that there is an increase in skills shortages as EU citizens re-assess their options.

Whilst ‘Talent’ is a complex area, fundamentally in order to attract the right talent and enhance a company’s prospects, there must be the infrastructure in both living and office space to support this and this is true for companies in London or the rest of the UK.

As a nation we need to provide high-quality and affordable accommodation for our growing population, but also to do it in such a way that the new housing is integrated into the communities where it sits. In London the affordability of accommodation is a problem as both rental and buying prices are out of reach of many individuals. There is less desire by new graduates to work in London, evidenced by the fact that around 60% of their intake from 2018 opted for roles outside the capital, predominantly due to accommodation costs. (Recent research by PWC) These decisions ultimately have a knock-on effect to the talent pools and pipeline of major businesses operating from London bases.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, one of the most talked about topics was Build to Rent (BTR). During one of the panel discussions, Pete Gladwell from L&G thought that perhaps we need to have a change in the way we approach renting and treat housing as part of community infrastructure, as opposed to a commodity.

‘If it is affordable, of high quality, and available with flexible rental agreements, would people be happy to live there longer term?’

Providing high quality, purpose-built accommodation designed for student living is a model adopted by student accommodation providers and examples exist elsewhere e.g. in Germany, where often people will stay in the same premises for decades with a regulated rent.

Build to rent (BTR), therefore focuses on the longer term not short-term profit gains and partnerships between businesses engaged in house building and the finance industry are allowing county councils and housing associations to build rentable homes, using investment from outside the industry; such as Pension Funds and Private Equity.

The property and housing challenges in London, and across the UK, are complex and the summit played an important role in bringing these all together. The business challenges can be boiled down into having the right skills available and the right leadership. At Wickland Westcott we offer leadership solutions ranging from finding the right people (permanent and interim recruitment) through to developing new and existing talent (assessment and coaching) as well as enabling effective teamwork (team facilitation and Board reviews). We may not have a silver bullet, however, like the property and housing summit we bring people together and look for solutions, whatever the leadership challenge.

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

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